The Fate of Fresh and Preserved, Noncrushed and Crushed Autogenous Cartilage in the Rabbit Model

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This study was conducted to investigate volume retention and chondrocyte survival rate in autogenous fresh noncrushed, fresh crushed, preserved noncrushed, and preserved crushed cartilage grafts in rabbits. During the first phase of this investigation, cartilage was harvested from the right ear of 20 New Zealand white rabbits, then preserved. Four months later during the second phase, two 6-mm discs of previously harvested and preserved cartilage, one crushed and one noncrushed, were applied to the right ear. At the same time, two 6-mm discs of fresh cartilage graft were harvested from the left ear and then placed at a higher level on the same side, one crushed and one noncrushed. Three months after implantation, the rabbits were sacrificed and the grafts were evaluated. The preserved noncrushed cartilage retained 91.34% of the volume (SD = 2.46). Although most of the chondrocytes were nonviable, vascular ingrowth occurred with a significant repopulation of chondrocytes peripherally, in association with vascular endothelial ingrowth. The preserved crushed cartilage retained 74.19% of the volume (SD = 3.06). Most of the original chondrocytes were lost, but vascular ingrowth did occur and some osteoid formation occurred on the crushed cartilages. All chondrocytes on the fresh noncrushed cartilage grafts were viable and the grafts retained 94.54% of the volume (SD = 2.46). Crushed fresh cartilage retained 69.73% of its volume and the amount of viable chondrocytes ranged from 70% to 90% in the specimens evaluated (SD = 5.15). Although there is no question that noncrushed cartilage is superior, crushed cartilage can be used with a fair degree of predictability to attain the aesthetic goal. However, overcorrection is necessary to achieve optimal final results.

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